Fontainebleau Miami opened its door for the first time in 1954.
In Fountainebleau Miami a ball marked the grand opening for 1600 guests, who included the mayor of Fontainebleau in France. Designed by Morris Lapidus, an architect of Russian descent, and built on land purchased from Harvey Firestone, the founder of the Firestone Tire Company, the eleven story, spectacularly curved building, at first drew both criticism and outrage for Fountainebleau Miami.
The Fountainebleau Miami included a 17,000 square foot marble floored lobby decorated with bow ties and a two story Stairway to Nowhere. The latter historically led to a cloakroom, which was reached by elevator. Guests having checked their hats and coats would then make a grand entrance down the staircase. There were both Russian and Turkish Baths and the famous La Ronde Supper Club where the stage could be raised by hydraulics at Fountainebleau Miami. 250 cabanas surrounded the immense swimming pool overlooking the ocean, tennis courts and putting greens were available for use and six acres of formal gardens imitated those to be found at Versailles and the Chateau of Fontainebleau Miami.
During the 50ís and 60ís, hotels in Miami and in particular the Fontainebleau Miami became the place to stay with the area being christened the American Riviera. Big named stars such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley and The Beatles either stayed or performed at the hotel. Scenes from the James Bond movie Gold Finger were shot here as was the Jerry Lewis film The Bellboy were all ar Fountainebleau Miami.
Unfortunately during the 70ís, the Fountainebleau Miami lost its popularity and became neglected and in bad need of repair. Organized crime, in the form of drug dealing, took over the area and a group known as the Black Tuna Gang ran their illicit drug operation from a suite in the Fontainebleau Miami. In 1977, hotelier Ben Novak, who had owned the Fountainebleau Miami from its concept, filed for bankruptcy.
In 1976 an organization called The Miami Design Preservation League was formed and due to the efforts it made to preserve the historic buildings of South Beach, The Miami Beach Architectural District was designated in 1979, thus becoming America’s first 2oth century Historic District that included Fountainebleau Miami.
In the 80ís and 90ís with TV shows such as Miami Vice, designers such as Versace and stars such as Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Gloria Estefan being regular visitors to Fountainebleau Miami, Miami regained its popularity., Hilton Hotels ran the Fontainebleau Miami and there was a new construction boom to provide the necessary hotel rooms to meet the increase in visitors.
In 2005, Turnberry Associates purchased the Fountainebleau Miami and in 2006 began work on a one billion dollar refurbishment of Fountainebleau Miami. In November 2008 the redeveloped hotel opened and on 22 December 2008 the Fontainebleau Miami was added to the U.S. National register of Historic Places. The new designers had kept the original concepts envisioned by Lapidus including the bow -tie floor and staircase and had built two towers to increase the room capacity to 1504 in Fountainebleau Miami, of which nearly half are suites. There are now an immense beachfront spa, a free form pool, three upmarket signature chef’s restaurants and two nightclubs in addition to the usual hotel facilities.